Stronger Together: The Valuable Role of Healthcare Workers

Lori Moore, MPH, BSN, RN, CPPS
Clinical Educator- GOJO Industries, Inc.

On March 11th, The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) to be a global pandemic. As the months have passed and COVID-19 has crept its way into each of our lives, so too has fear. Fear of what we don’t know, and fear of what we do know. But there came a moment for each of us, when we had to transition from a fear that was paralyzing to a fear that moved us forward into action.

Since the outset, the Health Canada has stepped into action working to ensure that their preparedness and response measures are appropriate and adaptable, and based on the latest science of the evolving situation. The Canadian Patient Safety Institute and IPAC Canada are also responding to the pandemic and working through their broad network of healthcare system partners to gather and share information about how patients, residents and community members can stay safe.

As well, healthcare workers have been working tirelessly to prevent the transmission of the virus to patients, residents and staff. While there are some things we still don’t know about this coronavirus, we do know how it is transmitted. COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets and by hands that have come in contact with the virus and subsequently touch the mouth, nose or eyes. With this knowledge, healthcare workers are brought back to the basic tenets of infection prevention in healthcare settings: hand hygiene with appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE). With no known cure, treatment or vaccine—it’s our only defense.

In response to the pandemic, the Health Canada has established the following recommendations for prevention: diligent hand hygiene with an alcohol-based hand rub if available and if your hands are not visibly dirty, or with soap and water if hands are dirty; droplet and contact precautions (mask, eye protection, gown, and gloves) at all times for suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19; and avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth.

Performing high-quality hand hygiene is more important than ever and proper technique must be used when applying alcohol-based hand rub or handwashing with soap and water. Ongoing education, vigilant monitoring and immediate feedback for lapses and slips will strengthen prevention efforts.

Appropriate use of PPE is also key is preventing spread; however, it’s important to note that PPE reduces, but does not eliminate, contamination of skin and clothing with pathogens. And high-risk exposures, such as caring for patients and residents with COVID-19, heighten concerns for contamination and transmission. The potential for inadvertent contamination of skin and clothing despite use of PPE may be particularly high during removal of contaminated PPE1, and education strategies for donning and doffing are critical in this pandemic. It is for this reason that Health Canada recommends paying particular attention while removing PPE. As with hand hygiene, ongoing education, vigilant monitoring and immediate feedback on donning and doffing PPE can reduce contamination and help prevent transmission of this virus.

These are frightening and exhausting times for everyone, and certainly there are many approaches to prevent the spread of this coronavirus in our healthcare facilities, but as diverse as those approaches might be, they will all begin with the basic tenets of infection prevention: meticulous hand hygiene and appropriate use of PPE.

The valuable role of healthcare workers has been brought to the forefront through this pandemic. It is imperative for all of us on the frontlines of patient care to share the responsibility of infection prevention. Let’s not be afraid to speak up and provide a gentle reminder when we see an inadvertent slip in technique or protocol. We need to build strong systems on our frontlines to keep ourselves and each other safe so that we can be there for our patients, residents and our families at home. Cleaning your hands has never mattered more.

GOJO cares deeply about protecting public health and about getting products to all of the places and people where they are needed; we are being called upon during this difficult time to help safeguard those working so hard on the front lines to help keep us all healthy and safe, and we are working with our distributor partners to prioritize healthcare facilities. More than ever, we are all committed to our GOJO Purpose of Saving Lives and Making Life Better Through Well-Being Solutions and are proud to be playing a vital role at this challenging and dynamic time.

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1. Tomas ME, Kundrapu S, Thota P, et al. Contamination of health care personnel during removal of personal protective equipment. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(12):1904-1910

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